Oil Drops Most in 17 Years in Quarter

Crude oil futures plunged 28 percent in the third quarter, their biggest decline since 1991, amid concern that slowing economic growth will curtail global demand and as the dollar advanced.

Oil traded within a $56 range in the quarter, reaching a record $147.27 a barrel on July 11 and retreating to as low as $90.51 a barrel on Sept. 16, as long-term supply concerns gave way to forecasts a recession would cause fuel use to drop. The dollar is having its best quarterly gain against the euro.

Crude oil for November delivery fell $39.36 in the three months ended today to settle at $100.64 a barrel at 2:51 p.m. in New York Mercantile Exchange trading. It was the first decline in seven quarters. Futures moved 5 percent or more on a quarter of the trading days. Oil rose $4.27, or 4.4 percent, today.

Crude posted the biggest single-day gain ever on Sept. 22, as traders rushed to unwind positions on the October contract's last day of trading. Prices rose as much as $25.45 a barrel before closing up $16.37, or 16 percent, to $120.92 a barrel.

The dollar's advance in the quarter reduced oil's appeal among investors who purchased energy and metals as a hedge against the currency's drop earlier in the year. The euro declined the most versus the dollar today since its introduction in 1999.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which supplies more than 40 percent of the world's oil, cut its forecast for 2009 oil demand on Sept. 16. The 13-member group said oil consumption will average 87.66 million barrels a day next year, compared with 87.80 million barrels a day in its previous outlook. It also cut its 2008 forecast by 120,000 barrels a day.

U.S. petroleum demand is about 4 percent below year-ago levels, amid rising U.S. economic growth, according to Citi's Evans.

U.S. gasoline stockpiles fell to an 18-year low in the week ended Sept. 12 after the hurricanes struck Texas and Louisiana, according to the U.S. Energy Department. U.S. refiners operated at 66.7 percent of capacity in the week ended Sept. 19, the lowest since at least 1989, because of storm damage.

Gasoline prices have dropped the most since the third quarter of 2006. Futures for October delivery fell $1.0168, or 29 percent, in the three months ended today to settle at $2.4847 a gallon. Today, gasoline added 8.77 cents, or 3.7 percent.

Regular gasoline, averaged nationwide, dropped 11 percent in the quarter to $3.633 a gallon, according to AAA, the nation's largest motorist organization. It was the first quarterly decline in a year. The price peaked at $4.114 a gallon on July 16.

Gold traded near the highest in two months as a rejection of the $700 billion bailout bill for the U.S. banking system by the House of Representatives stoked fear of a worsening credit crisis and spurred demand for haven assets. Gold for immediate delivery rallied to $925.10 an ounce yesterday, the highest since July 31, and traded at $905.47 an ounce at 9:03 a.m. in Singapore. December-delivery gold advanced 1.7 percent to $909.60 an ounce in after-hours electronic trading on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Silver for immediate delivery was little changed at $13.11 an ounce.

TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg.com
9/30/2008 12:47:21 PM